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Report No. 255

(ii) 1998 opinion poll guidelines

8.2.1. The earliest attempt to regulate opinion polls was made in 1998 when the ECI took an overall view of the situation and issued an order on 11th January 1998 laying down "Guidelines for Publication and Dissemination of Results of Opinion Polls/Exit Polls", including government-controlled electronic media, in connection with the conduct of opinion polls and exit polls by them. This was done in the wake of impending general elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.321

321. Mendiratta, supra note 161, at 715

8.2.2. The said guidelines prohibited publication or dissemination, in any manner whatsoever, of the result of any opinion poll conducted at any time, in or by any print or electronic media, after 5:00 p.m., forty-eight hours before the commencement of the first day of poll for the aforesaid elections, till the closing of poll in all States and Union territories. More specifically, the concerned guideline mandated that:

"No result of any opinion poll conducted at any time shall be published, publicised or disseminated, in any manner whatsoever, in or by any print or electronic media, after 1700 hours on February 14, 1998 (February 16, 1998 being the first day of poll for the aforesaid general elections) and till after the closing of poll in all States and Union territories, i.e., 1700 hours on March 7, 1998."322

322. Election Commission of India, 'Guidelines for Publication and Dissemination of Results of Opinion Polls/Exit Polls', Order No. ECI/MCS/98/01, 20th January 1998
<http://eci.nic.in/archive/instruction/recent/media/pnxitpoll_FINAL.html>

8.2.3. Almost simultaneously, the Press Council of India ('PCI') also examined the issue of dissemination of results of opinion polls and exit polls and formulated certain guidelines for the press and the print media. The crux of the PCI recommendations was that newspapers should not allow their forum to be used for distortions and manipulations of the elections and should not allow themselves to be exploited at the hands of interested parties.323

323. Press Council of India, 'Guidelines on Pre-polls and Exit Polls Survey',
<http://presscouncil.nic.in/OldWebsite/history.htm>

8.2.4. Consequently, the PCI mandated that:

"No newspaper shall publish exit-poll surveys, however genuine they may be, till the last of the poll is over."324

324. Id.

The PCI issued such a guideline primarily because poll dates during an election are staggered. Hence, the media may end up carrying exit-poll surveys of the polls already held which would be likely to influence the voters where the polling is yet to commence.



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